Last week the flock of pigeons ignored their king and flew down to eat the bed of grains, only to be trapped in the hunter’s net. In this episode, Chitragriva, the king pigeon, teaches his flock that unity is strength and outsmarts the hunter.
Unity is Strength
There was chaos on the ground. The pigeons tried to free their feet, but nope, the net wouldn’t give away. They shouted, shrieked, and yelled. The tables were turned; the birds were furious at the pigeon who egged them to ignore Chitragriva’s warning.
“We should have never listened to you. It’s all your fault. You tricked us, and now, we won’t see the light of another day. The hunter will surely take us home or sell us. We’re all going to be someone’s dinner.” On and on, they ranted.
Friends, have you ever noticed this habit with people? When you win, everyone wants to have a share of the loot. But if you lose, you are left to face the crisis alone because no one else wants to take the blame. Don’t you think the other pigeons were also responsible for the trouble? They had the choice to say, “No, we will not fly down to the forest floor.”
Anyway, Chitragriva was not only wise and just, but he was also a kind king. He defended the other pigeon. “No, don’t blame him! We’re all in this together. We can’t get free by fighting over who is to blame. Stop this blame game, and let’s find a way to free ourselves.
It’s easy to be intelligent, capable, brave, and kind when life is smooth. But how you behave when things go wrong will show your true character. Our goal is to get out of here alive. So, let’s stop bickering and work together.
This is what we’ll do; when I signal, let us all fly together, and I mean all of us! Do you hear me? Remember, unity is strength. If even one of you slackens, the others must do extra work. On our own, we are too small to save ourselves. But have you noticed how even giant elephants can be tied down with ropes made of blades of grass? If we all fly simultaneously, we can lift the net and be away before the man realizes what we are up to.”
He looked at the pigeons one by one to see if they understood. “Because we are too small to escape on our own, but our combined strength will help us get away from here.”
Meanwhile, the hunter was ecstatic behind the bush. “SO MANY BIRDS! I will make a FORTUNE today!” He was lost in a pleasant daydream about all the money he would make at the market, building a bigger house, buying jewellery for his wife and children… until a thunderous noise startled him. Jerking his head, he pulled down a branch to get a better look.
WHAT? What was happening? How was this possible? The birds…his birds were flying away, carrying the net with them. He stumbled through the forest, trying to reach the net. But the flock of pigeons rose high into the air rather quickly. There was no way he could grab the net. The birds understood that and were soon out of sight.
When there was no trace of the hunter, the pigeons turned once more their king. “Chitragriva, what do we do now? How do we go free?” Chitragriva told the others, “Let’s go to the forests on the Gandaki river to see the king of mice, Hiranyaka. He is my friend, and I’m sure he will free us from the net.”
As the pigeons descended on the forest floor, the thunderous noise of hundreds of wings flapping sent Hiranyaka huddling in his mousehole. King, he may be, but he was only a tiny mouse after all! So, when he heard a familiar voice call his name, he rushed out, confused. His confusion turned to happiness when he saw who it was.
“Chitragriva! Is it you?” Then he saw the net and the other birds. “Oh, my dear friend! What happened to you?”
After hearing the pigeon’s tale, Hiranyaka said, “Let me set you free. I will nibble the net around your feet….”
Chitragriva interrupted. “No, no, my friend. These pigeons are my responsibility. Please take care of them first.”
Hiranyaka hesitated. “But I don’t know if I’m strong enough to cut every one of them free. Let me free you, and then we’ll see.”
The pigeon king wouldn’t budge, either. “I wish you would do as I ask Hiranyaka! You see, there’s nothing special or different about me. As their king, it is my duty to take care of them first. When we die, our bodies will be no more, but people will always remember how we act in times of trouble. It was my job to keep them safe. So, please free the other pigeons first.”
The mouse gave in; his heart filled with joy. “Aah, my friend! My friend! You are a good and just leader. It’s really not your fault that the hunter trapped them. Don’t blame yourself. These things happen.”
Hiranyaka nibbled at the net, freeing all the birds. You can bet it took a long time to release them all. The pigeons thanked him and flew away.
Now, if you remember, Laghupatnaka, the crow, was watching this whole story play out. “What an unlikely friendship between a pigeon and a mouse, and yet, without that friend, the pigeons wouldn’t be free today. I wish I had friends like this,” he thought. His face brightened. “Well, why not? I can be friends with the mouse, the same as the pigeon!”
“Hey! Mouse King, please come out of your mouse-hole. I want to be your friend!” the crow called out.
“What? Who is this?” the mouse squeaked.
“I’m Laghupatnaka, the crow. I was so moved by your friendship with the pigeon and how you rescued the birds. I want to be your friend, too,” the bird squared his chest as he introduced himself.
“What do you mean NO?”
“Do you mean to tell me you don’t see what’s odd about your request?” the mouse frowned.
“No…what’s odd about my request?” The crow tilted his head puzzled.
“Well, I am your food, aren’t I? How can I trust you not to eat me when you get hungry, ha? It’ll be like the deer tricked by the jackal and who had to be freed by the crow.”
“What’s the story with a crow? I’ve never heard of it before! Why don’t you tell me the tale?” the crow hopped to a rock closer to the mouse hole and waited.
“Oh, all right! I’ll tell you the story. Maybe that will show you how odd your request is,” began the king of the mouse.
Click here to listen to other episodes of the Hitopadesha:
Episode 1: Hitopadesha: Introduction